Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Breathing Digital - Is Second Screen a fad or the growing slope of a demographic mountain?

I was having that familiar discussion in London last week about what 2nd screen was and whether or not this was a real market trend or just an overhyped fad.  Of course, it is always hard to know these things before they happen (else we would all be very rich), but in thinking through a new way to answer beyond stating the most recent statistics of 80%+ people using a 2nd screen while watching TV only to hear the the person I am speaking to me immediately tell me they never do, etc, I thought about a key note I saw at a conference in 1999.

That's right, 1999.  Do you remember those days?  The dot com world was still full of joy and optimism about taking over the world and "e-business" was still a buzz word.  I was fortunate enough to see Don Tapscott speaking about his new book, "Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation".  He was engaging and even funny, but what really stuck with me for the last 13 years is the way he described his kids reaction to one of his prouder moments a few years earlier when he was demonstrating how to surf the web on a public television show.  His kids were utterly underwhelmed, "Why don't we film me getting milk out of the fridge, dad, or changing the TV channel?"  His point was that our children who were growing up then (Generation Y) would live and breathe this stuff, and as a result, use it in ways we couldn't even imagine (think Twitter).

I had my own first confirmation of this when my daughter was seven and after returning from vacation, we tried to finish off a disposable underwater camera I had taken snorkeling with us.  She quickly grabbed the camera after the shot and turned it around, expecting to see the digital image on the back--she had never seen a camera in her young life without one.

Now that my children at 9 and 13, I can see giant changes approaching in the way that they live digitally.  They prefer texting over phoning.  They don't use email, opting for Facebook messaging or even Instagram instead.  They will never know what a bedroom or playroom TV is (having lived with an iPad for every other room in the house).  And as I watch them around the living room, it is clear they will likely only very rarely experience a film, TV show or sporting event without a second screen.  While we are currently astounded by the stats in the industry (80%+ using second screens, 30%+ engaging in content related to the 1st screen, etc), these stats are going to continue to grow as the generation Y and generation M (Millennial) grow up and get their own smart phones and tablets.

If you think this is still just anecdotal evidence, look at the two graphs I found on the population age demographic curve and its impact recently for growth in online banking.

Your question shouldn't be "Will this happen with enough scale to matter?"  Your question should be "How do I leverage this changing consumer behavior to affect my business, improve my consumer engagement, or better monetize my part of the value chain?"

Enjoy your summer.



  1. A 2nd screen is the closet thing we have to being able to "smell" movies. Let me elaborate:
    From surround sound to 3D, technology has been striving to insert audiences into the movie, and short of being able to smell the scenes being projected, we have reached a point where audience experience is like never before.
    However, and to the point of the importance of 2nd screen, all the tech innovation cannot replace the fact of being there when it comes to sporting events, particularly due to the fact that you could actually be there. And here is where 2nd screen comes into play; while watching the race or game, i find myself browsing for a bunch of info and stats which enhance the watching experience at home (previous score, leader boards, championship rankings, etc...). Although it doesn't compare to the experience of being part of a live audience, at least it brings added satisfaction, and just like being able to smell a movie, the user gets a more satisfying and rewarding experience.
    So maybe 2nd screen is the next stage of the tech evolution meant to engage the audience more and more, and will soon become as natural as surround sound and 3D, just like the digital screen on the camera that your daughter was looking for.

  2. The demographic wave is exactly the right point...

    Read "The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm" by Kenneth W. Gronbach if you doubt it.

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